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Violence flares at Land Day protests

March 30, 2012 2:36 P.M. (Updated: March 31, 2012 8:10 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters across the occupied West Bank on Friday, as Palestinians commemorated Land Day and marched toward Jerusalem.

In Bethlehem and Qalandiya, near Ramallah, Palestinian youths threw rocks at Israeli soldiers and military installations connected to checkpoints separating West Bank cities from the holy city Jerusalem.

Palestinians are joining a "Global March to Jerusalem" in addition to the annual Land Day commemoration, which marks a deadly Israeli crackdown on protests in the Galilee in 1976.

Israeli forces were put on high alert at frontier crossings with Lebanon and Syria, but there were no reports of any protesters nearing the fences, unlike last year when several demonstrators were killed there.

However, violence flared at checkpoints in the occupied West Bank to the north and south of Jerusalem. Witnesses also reported disturbances at gates leading into the Old City, with police looking to limit access to the revered al-Aqsa Mosque.

A Ma'an correspondent in East Jerusalem said a Red Crescent supervisor at the scene of clashes reported six injuries, two of them serious. They were injured by a riot policeman's horse, the official said.

"We are determined to march together toward Jerusalem, and hopefully we will break through and reach it," said a masked youth, calling himself Rimawi, as he faced off against soldiers near Ramallah.

Flag-waving crowds neared the Qalandiya crossing out of Ramallah, some of them hurling stones at the security forces, but were forced back when border police sprayed them with foul smelling liquid from a water cannon.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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